A study of zebra finches, led by researchers at the University of St Andrews has found that the increased investment by mothers in their offspring, when their partner is attractive, carries onto their grandchildren.
Dr Jeff Graves, of the School of Biology at St Andrews, led the research into the effect of male attractiveness. He said the new research had found maternal investment continued down the generations to their daughters and grandchildren.
He said: “We have known for some time that females adjust the constituents of their eggs when they have an attractive mate.
“The exciting part of these results is, that the effects of this adjustment for attractive mates, is that it carries over to the next generation.”
The research, carried out by biologists at the University of St Andrews with Dr Lucy Gilbert now at the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen, manipulated the males’ “attractiveness” by putting a red leg ring on some and a green ring on others.
Zebra finch females have been previously shown to view red as a marker of attractiveness in males.
Seventy males were randomly fitted with coloured leg rings and paired with females at random. After the females laid eggs, the clutches were taken and given to new foster parents. Once those offspring were mature, they were paired randomly with males whose attractiveness had not been manipulated.
It was found the mothers reacted to the perceived attractiveness of the male, even though the genetic factor had been removed.
They found the daughters of attractive fathers produced more and heavier eggs, and the daughters of attractive foster-fathers still produced more eggs, but they were not heavier.
They concluded the eggs of the biological fathers were heavier, and in greater number, due to the investment of the mother, and that the greater number of eggs to foster fathers could due to foster mothers giving more investment to the chicks after hatching because the partner was attractive.
Note to Editors
Jeff Graves is available for interview on +44 (0)1334 463518; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108 / 0779 6484 194
Ref: (attractiveness 21/07/11)
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